I need some input and quick...

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Blog entry by RobH posted 09-08-2007 05:27 AM 1092 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hey all,

Back to the bookshelves. I am having more trouble with these things than a little. My latest is the face frame joints. In an effort to make a single face frame across a 13 foot set of bookshelves I have found myself in a pickle. I do not have the room to assemble the whole face frame to sand the joints flush before finishing. I talked with the customer tonight and we decided to build four separate face frames. With the hope that no planer would be needed I went to Lowe’s and picked up a 3/4” oak board. Much to my dismay, this thing is about 1/32” thicker than the current face frame material. So, out comes the planer anyway. With the wheels still turning in my mind I come up with another option. Plane down the rails of the face frame about 1/16” or maybe a hair more. This would make the stile sit proud of the rail by about 1/16”. Then, run a 1/16” chamfer down each side of the stile. It would look something like this:

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Another option is top plane the rails down by 1/8” and run a 1/16” chamfer on the stiles. This would look something like this:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So, I have three options. Which do you all like best?

(1) Rebuild the face frames into four separate units and attach then to the shelves before installation.

(2) Put a 1/16” chamfer on the stile and plane the rails down to meet the bottom of the chamfer (or close to it)

(2) Put a 1/16: chamfer on the stil and plane the rails down 1/8”.

Please help if you can. I need to get started on this mid morning tomorrow. All answers or further ideas are welcome too.

Thanks again,
Rob Hix

-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

11 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4424 days

#1 posted 09-08-2007 05:37 AM

I realize that you stated the customer said it was ok to make 4 separate face frames. have they stated any feeling on the other options you stated.

I noticed that you didn’t state as an option of making the face frames on site. That would be my choice. having all of the wood at the same thickness and then assembling them to the cabinets on site.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4110 days

#2 posted 09-08-2007 05:57 AM

I was thinking the same thing Karson. Site assembly would be my choice.

-- Bob

View Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 4012 days

#3 posted 09-08-2007 06:00 AM

Yea, I am thinking like Karson and Bob. Time to load up all the tricks and assemble on site.

View RobH's profile


465 posts in 4073 days

#4 posted 09-08-2007 06:14 AM

Assembling on-site is impossibe for me. These shelves are being put into a house that is being built by a friend (he is the contractor). He did not sell the bookshelves one way or the other, and no, he has not seen the options yet. All he sold with the house was 13 feet of bookcases. We talked earlier tonight and came up with the re-build plan. Right now that is what I am leaning toward. It would require me to trim a little off of each rail in the face frame and to build three stiles. These three stiles would have to be planed down a little and sanded. The other options are starting to seem like too much work. I have two and a half weeks to get this done. Time is of the essence.

Thanks for the input so far.


-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 3968 days

#5 posted 09-08-2007 06:22 AM

Rob -

I’d really have to agree with the first 3 posts overall, but it seems like your concern with the original idea of a single face frame is making sure the joints are flush before you attach it to the cabinet. Although I’d think you could probably achieve that building right onto the cabinets onsite, you might also be able to apply your idea of a chamfered stile to the original single face frame design or maybe plane the stiles 1/8” thinner than that rails to provide a sort of reveal. In other words, you’d have a 13 foot rail on the top of the cabinets, and then your vertical stiles would be 1/8” thinner than the rail, creating a reveal detail. As Karson says, it’s probably a good idea to see what your customer thinks first.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View RobH's profile


465 posts in 4073 days

#6 posted 09-08-2007 01:20 PM

After sleeping on it, I think I am going with the separate face frame route. First reason being is I have no more than two and a half weeks to finish this thing. I really needed to get stain on everything today, but obviously that is not going to happen. Second reason is that my wife is about to take the kids and walk out the door over this project. It has been all I have been doing for 3 months now. I think my two year old is calling the door out to the garage daddy. Third reason, it will make installation a lot easier, solving some problems we thought we might have there.

Man, this project has been one more nightmare. You can bet for sure that I am out of the bookshelf making business for a while. Every time I try to make a few bucks it comes back to bite me in the rear. I bet I have made at least $0.10/hour on this project.

Thanks all for the input and the support.


-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4184 days

#7 posted 09-08-2007 01:29 PM

learning opportunity? Priceless.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View RobH's profile


465 posts in 4073 days

#8 posted 09-08-2007 03:04 PM

Yeah Debbie, I am thinking about a blog entry totally about this problematic job and how turning a hobby turns something fun into work. It may be work you like, but it is still work. For me when I try to get some money out of the hobby I end up loosing my personal creativity and self expression. It is WORK for me. What I NEED is a hobby.


-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4060 days

#9 posted 09-08-2007 03:31 PM

The large built ins that I’ve done have been assembled on site. The face frames were stained and finished, then cut to fit and assembled on site. I have a built-in project entry that speaks of the trials and tribulations of just what you’re going through and a second bookcase that has the theme of “me and my big mouth.” I deliberated for a long time on the big built in before I did all the assemble on-site. Sorry, no help.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View RobH's profile


465 posts in 4073 days

#10 posted 09-08-2007 07:30 PM

I went back and read the article that Fine Woodworking did on built-ins. The person that wrote the article cut the rails of the face frame on site. Everything he did was pre-finished. How did he get things flush? Well, he put a small chamfer on the stiles as well as the end of the rails. This forms a small V-groove where the rail and stile meet. This along with the same small chamfer on the other appropriate edges of the rails will make a good finished project.

Once again thanks for the comments. I love the community here. I will have to get a little more active once this project is done.


-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4111 days

#11 posted 09-10-2007 03:01 AM

If you look at the project I posted today that was built in the shop and installed on site.

The cabinets were made and finished in the shop. The doors (bifold) were installed once the cabinets were in place. You have to do that in order to level the base.

Holes were drilled in the ends of the uprights to match dowels set in the cabinet tops to align the upper case.
The upper face frame was installed with pocket screws and the curved fronts were fastened to the face frames also with pocket screws.

I also have made 4 carcases for bookshelves in my office. Cabinet grade plywood stained cherry. As I recall it was pretty close to 13 feet. Ploughed dadoes into the sides to hold metal shelf supports that held the adjustable shelf pins. Put them on 2/4x as the base and to make levellng easier. The inside face frames helped hold the units together and were probably 2 1/2 inches wide. 1 1/2 for the carcase sides and 1/2 overage. The end face frames were scribed to match the wall imperfections and then fastened to the end carcases. Face frame on the top doubled as moulding and the bottom frame hung down below the carcasses but left a little lip at the bottom of the carcase. A toe kick covered the unsightly bottom.

In all these years I’m the only one who notices the imperfections. Everyone else raves. I compare it to what I see in new construction in the Atlanta area and it is far and away better than what is being built and sold. A 1/16th difference is shaded away with a little sanding.

Small boxes and dovetails require precision. Everything else is just trim.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

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